Media Bias in Small-Town Wisconsin

The reach of the AP’s antiwar bias is powerful. AP Writer Liz Sidoti’s November 17th dispatch was printed in hundreds of newspapers across the country including the small-town Wisconsin paper, Wausau Daily Herald. Unfortunately, Sidoti’s opinion commentary piece was not on the editorial page; it was packaged as news.

WDH changed the dispatch headline from “Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout” to “Pro-War Democrat: ‘Time to bring them home’” and served up the antiwar slanted story on its front page. The story opens:

One of Congress’ most hawkish and influential Democrats…

That first sentence describing Congressman John Murtha is not news. Liz Sidoti incorporated her opinion in the first sentence of her “news” story. Bloggers like Jim Hoft and Paul Mirengoff have a different opinion of the hawkishness of Rep. Murtha. Another Sidoti opinion is found later:

The comments by the Pennsylvania lawmaker, who has spent three decades in the House, hold particular weight because he is close to many military commanders and has enormous credibility with his colleagues on defense issues. He voted for the war in 2002, and remains the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

All you need to do is look at Jim Hoft’s timeline to see that Rep. Murtha has been speaking out against the war for more than two years. If that is not enough to diminish the credibility of Sidoti’s paragraph just consider that Senators Biden, Clinton, Edwards, Feinstein, Kerry and Reid all voted for the war in 2002. Does anyone want to claim that Reid’s position has credibility or he is pro-war based on that fact? Anyone? Well then, neither should Sidoti or the Wausau paper in a “news” story.

Sidoti takes the Vice President out of context:

Murtha uncharacteristically responded to Vice President Dick Cheney’s comments this week that Democrats were spouting “one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges” about the Bush administration’s use of intelligence before the war.

“I like guys who’ve never been there that criticize us who’ve been there,” Murtha said. “I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.”

Here is what the Vice President actually said:

….players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that’s been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.

Does anyone want to argue that Sidoti has accurately captured the sentiment of the Vice President or that Murtha’s statement is a response to it? Anyone? This story has no business being pawned off as news.

I’m not sure if the following is a lie or just bad reporting by Stodi:

Murtha’s shift from an early war backer to a critic advocating withdrawal reflects plummeting public support for a war that has cost more than $200 billion and led to the deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. troops.

Murtha’s shift of position more than two years ago didn’t “reflect” any of that. It would be more accurate to say: Plummeting public support for the war reflects the antiwar bias of the Associated Press as expressed in this story and many, many previous stories.